Lessons in Perspective... and Invaded

This weekend just past was another Playtest UK Sunday afternoon session in London, and once again I took Invaded along to see how things were going.  On this occasion, things went a little differently.

We had a four player game (including myself), and I settled in to explain the rules, acutely aware that partly as the game has been changing a lot recently, I haven't really developed an effective rules explanation.  This is something I really need to work on.  I was a few minutes into this ropy rules run-through when I started getting questions from the player to my left.  These weren't the typical request for clarification that I am used to, but more fundamental, calling into question the game from a very basic level and my assumptions about what the players would understand.  

I really should start thinking of a way to tidy things up and make the game look neater on the table.
It quickly became apparent that this particular player was not a hobby gamer like the rest of us around the table and did not have the shared vocabulary that the rest of us knew.  We ended up being a bit derailed into a conversation kicked off by questions about why anyone would invent a game as complicated as this one and what families I thought would be interested in it.

While frustrating at the time, this is actually an interesting point to ponder.  Invaded, by hobby game standards, is not a particularly complex game, but it takes a lot more explaining than the sort of mainstream games you can buy in high street shops in the lead-up to Christmas.  If it was given to the average non-geek family, it might be opened and the rules looked at, and then put straight in the pile of stuff to be sent to the charity shop.  It is important to keep in mind who the target audience for a game design is, and who it is not.

Despite being hit and slowed down by the Sledgehammer of Perspective and the Cricket Bat of Confusion, we did get a couple of rounds of the game played, during which I saw evidence that my new system for controlling the colonial power worked well in general (though some actions were too frequent and became dull and repetitive as a result) and, pleasingly, I saw the two more experienced gamers in the group grokking the rules easily and being able to explain them to the non-gamer.  I identified a few other small issues, but I think this test was mostly more evidence that I really need to start moving into a new phase of playtesting.

So the plan now is to fix the issues we identified in the current version of the game and then start to work on more intensive playtesting.  Yes, I know this game's development has actually been pretty intense (by my standards) over the last couple of months, but in this case I mean that I need to have people playing the game multiple times, look for balance issues, try all the different combinations of finale/mission cards, really concentrate on finding and fixing any areas where people get confused or disengaged.  Basically, it's a matter of turning what I think is now a reasonably decent game into a good (and hopefully great) one.

As Matt Leacock might say, the first 80% of the work is done.  Only 80% more to go...

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